They call it the "Terrible Two's" for a reason...
I know I am not alone in realising that my sweet baby has turned into a toddler, a two year old toddler who loves throwing tantrums. His tantrums are super dramatic, and I mean academy award winning. My family and I laugh at how he so cleverly chooses where to tantrum and how to tantrum. He always makes sure it's a safe place, checks the ground and then (sometimes) gently places himself down before he begins, the kicking, screaming, crying.
He is what I like to call a "Stop, Drop and Kick" kid. He very clearly needs to use all his limbs to release his wild energy, in kicking and thrashing movements. Though they are often comical moments, they can also be stressful to the parent- and very stressful for the child.
Why do kids tantrum?
From different articles, blogs and books I've read, tantrums usually stem from these things:
- Frustration (Can't get the star shape block through the circle hole, blue cup instead of green cup for example).
- Overstimulation or situations the child just can't cope with (when something is taken away for example).
So why at 2?
I am no expert, but have done some study on early child hood development through my education degree, and one of the biggest things that stood out to me was that cognitive development is the answer to EVERYTHING! Okay, when I say cognitive development I'm talking about- neuroscience and psychology focusing on a child's development in terms of information processing, conceptual resources, perceptual skill, language learning- basically the way the brain develops from a Childs point of view. Without going into all the nitty gritty, at two years old children do not have the intellectual development to symbolically reason.
This has been proven to occur around 36 months. Once a child has grasped symbolic reasoning they can process information more clearly, express themselves with clear articulation and meaning. At the age of two, children have all the emotions and all the feelings but are unable to truly express what they want or why they want it. They live in the "now" and process the current moment, not "later",
"You can't have popcorn for dinner Wylie, you can have it tomorrow"
Wylie- "No, Nowwwwwwww!!!!!!!!!! Cockporn now!!!!!!!!" Falls to the floor, tantrum.
(Yes our son legit calls popcorn- cockporn).
So, how do we deal with these little bombs waiting to go off?
First things first, know that you are not alone, this will pass and it is a completely normal expression for a toddler. However it is important to know how to deal with tantrums now so that children don't use it as a way to get what they want, and carry it on into their later years. WE CANT LET THEM WIN!!!
Many, many, many "experts" will tell you to "ignore" the tantrum and let it pass. This is okay sometimes, not all the time. Some children are very wilful and will continue screaming through woolies, from isle 1 to 12, and no one wants that. You need to be consistent. Consistency and following through is the key. Your child needs to know that their is a consequence NOT punishment.
Time out- If you have never watched Super Nanny, I suggest you do. She is the queen of time out. Find somewhere in your house that can become the "time out" space. Super Nanny says that time out time should be one minute for their age- i.e. Wylie- 2 1/2, so he goes to time out for 2 1/2 minutes. Always come back to your child with a clean slate, put the tantrum behind you both, talk about why you put them their and then hug it out.
Time out- Talk it out- Hug it out.
It can be so easy to meet your child's tantrum with your own temper, but this will only create more frustration to you and the child, as the old saying goes "don't add fuel to the fire". Calmly talk to your child, hug them and reassure. But do not give in, if you have said no for a good reason back yourself, or the child has won and will know that all they need to do to get that extra treat is to kick and scream and cry. When Wylie is in full swing of his tantrum, I stand quietly by, so that when he has released the energy he can come to me. And he always does, for a hug.
We all get stuck sometimes in moments of anger and frustration and it is so incredibly hard to always be the "bigger" person. Two year olds are hard work. The little terrors are pushing and testing and figuring themselves, you and the world out.
What you can do to prevent tantrums / ease them
- Be prepared. Snacks, always snacks. Going to woolies? Take some snacks so the kid isn't hungry or bored. Water bottle always, keep the hydration levels high.
- Physical activities- Keep those endorphin levels high with outside activities, it's great for their physical and cognitive development.
- Take a moment to teach- If you see them getting frustrated with a toy that just won't work, go and show them how to do it a few times. Teach them by showing them how to deal with a problem.
- Provide solutions- When a child wants something they can't have i.e. popcorn for dinner, don't just say "no" give them their other options, fruit, corn on the cob, something you know they'll like that is appropriate dinner food.
- See it from their point of view- is it a huge deal if you give them what they want? Are you always saying no? Look at the situation first, could you give something to ease the problem without giving into the child completely?
- Watch super nanny!
To me, it is so important that if my child falls down, he knows how to get back up again.
(And that I'll be there for a kiss and cuddle, oh and to take photos to show him when he is older, of course)
Ps. if you are interested here are some of my favourite cognitive development books.
brain rules by John Medina
Teach Your Child How to Think- Edward De Bono
In The Beginning- The Brain, early development and learning by Michael Nagel. Anything by Mike Nagel is awesome, check out his website